Friends, it is a good feeling to be here with you today at our treasured War Memorial.
Our nation’s war grave
its stone, skilfully crafted
its plot, lovingly tendered
its solid, grounded, familiar presence
a buffer, to the human sacrifice and frailty
a bolster, to the courage and distinction
that it enshrines.
On this Remembrance Day, it is a privilege and a weighty task for me
to sense your cares
and try to speak to them.
As it is always –
to understand the bits we acknowledge as shared, and be their voice
and to leave the rest respectfully unspoken.
This year – every year – there have been moments just like this one.
At Gallipoli, and Lone Pine, on Anzac Day, the 95th anniversary of the launch of the Allied campaign on Turkish shores.
At the Turkish International service on the same day, held overlooking Anzac Cove.
Here, at the 68th anniversary memorial service of the Battle of the Coral Sea.
At the National Reserve Forces Day Parade in Sydney’s Domain.
At Fromelles, France, on the burial of the 250th unnamed soldier slaughtered in 1916 on the battlefield there.
And with the relatives of those Australian and British men who were lost nearly a century ago, then found.
At Sabah on Sandakan Day.
In the Investiture Room at Government House, Canberra, presenting
the Medal of Gallantry to former Major Geoff Kendall,
and the Distinguished Service Medal to the widow of former Flight Lieutenant Clifford Dohle
for their actions in the Battle of Long Tan 44 years ago.
At Lismore for the dedication of the Sandakan Death Marches Memorial.
Here again, for the unveiling of the National Service Memorial.
And so often in the hushed exchanges that occur at the edges of ceremony and formality.
Each time, I am reminded, reassured by our remembering.
We are good at it, and that’s why it is good to be here.
We seem to know what we ought to hold onto, and what is best let go.
In holding on, we remember the people and their lessons to us.
In letting go, we free ourselves to walk in their shoes and learn from them.
At the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month 92 years ago, the First War’s firing ceased.
Over the past century and a quarter, 102,000 Australian servicemen and women have lost their lives in conflict – their names, carved into the bones of this cenotaph.
Many hundreds of thousands more survived, but the conflict raged on in troubled thoughts, lost limbs and broken lives.
For some, it’s still raging.
For others – and their families – peace, pride and equilibrium have been restored.
In us wells an awe and thankfulness for what they did
for bravely turning up
for making the most of what they had
for seeing and enduring the best and worst of humankind
for doing what their country asked of them
and doing for one another what they’d never have asked for themselves
and if all that meant giving up everything and everyone they cared about,
they did, and they still do.
the Colonial period
the First World War
the Second World War
the occupation of Japan
the Korean War
the Malayan Emergency
the Indonesian Confrontation
the Vietnam War
the First Gulf War
and the former and current peacekeeping, mentoring and reconstruction operations in:
the Solomon Islands
the Middle East
Over a million Australians, and millions more throughout the world
on whose behalf we gather today
together and apart
in our own remembering
expressed in countless, deeply human ways
so precious that
I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel:
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the soul within.
And so, when words can do no more for us, we take up silence to shine light upon the soul.
In silence, we can, without apology or regret, climb into ourselves and run away with our remembering
the joy and grief
the anger and relief
the devastation and loss
and the fresh possibilities, if we allow them.
This morning, the Memorial opens its Roll of Honour once more to the names of ten courageous, outstanding Australian soldiers who have died over the last year on active service in Afghanistan:
Sapper Jacob Moerland
Sapper Darren Smith
Private Timothy Aplin
Private Benjamin Chuck
Private Scott Palmer
Private Nathan Bewes
Trooper Jason Brown
Private Tomas Dale
Private Grant Kirby
Lance Corporal Jared Mackinney
These fine young men live on in the faces and hearts, photographs, diaries and dreams of their loved ones.
For us, their countrymen and women, they live on in our nation’s memory, and symbolise the values and freedoms that we will always strive to protect.
In remembering them, we hope for something better – for their loved ones and for our nation and our world.
To remember is to hope.
Hope is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tunes without the words
And never stops – at all – …
Australians, as I lay a wreath for these men and all those who’ve fallen before them, I snatch two poppies winking in our midst behind my ear, I stick one through one blood red poppy I give to you.
Australians, today I ask you to remember and to hope, lest we forget.